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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Stanley

Celebrating the Event Industry's 2024 Women to Watch

Updated: Mar 26

There is no better experience than watching someone shine in their own unique light.


Two years ago, I decided to launch the first-ever Women to Watch Awards in an effort to elevate and celebrate the phenomenal women of the event industry for International Women's Day. Recognizing that visibility is a key ingredient for success, why not spotlight leaders who are making an incredible impact on their community and the people around them?


Reading the entries that hundreds of men and women from across the globe wrote when they nominated their colleagues, mentors, mentees and peers has been incredibly heartwarming. The stories they shared and the admiration and appreciation they have for the women you're going to scroll down and read about is truly inspiring. These leaders are compassionate, strategic, gritty, creative, resilient, strong, kind, empowered, and authentic. They are the women who make the meetings industry - and the world around them - better.


So please, join me in celebrating and honoring the women who have been nominated by their peers for this year's Women to Watch Awards. Cheers to you, ladies!


Ajoa Abrokwa

Alisa de Gaspe Beaubien

Allison Kearns

Amanda Black

Amanda Struss

Amy Harris

Amy Rixmann

Angela "Fig" Wirkler

Ashley Baptiste

Asiyah Ball

Betsy Walker

Brandy Thigpen

Brenda Perrin

Cayce Turbeville

Cheryl Oswald

Ciara Feely

Claudia Polycar

Crystal Shaughnessy

Deanna Griffith-House

Elizabeth Giron

Erin Schrieber

Gabrielle Groll

Genevieve Belou

Huong Nguyen

Janielle Bertrand

Jeniffer Bello

Jennifer Selley

Jihan Lang

Kate Calderon

Kate Walsh

Katie Mahr

Keliane Nakamura

Kellye Gardner

Kristian Miller

Lauren Smith

Layne

Loretta Allen

Mai Lim

Mandy Robbins

Marisa Cali

Melissa Deslauriers

Melissa Riley

Melva LaJoy Legrand

Michelle Johnson

Michelle Marinelli

Michelle Moon

Monique Hill

Natasha Manji

Nikki Bibbero

Noonie Aguilar

Paulina Giusti

Precious LaTonia Williams

Quinn Conyers

Raya Roll

Richelle Suver

Sarah Soliman

Shelley Brown

Simone Stone

Steph Callie

Susan Piel

Sydney Rhea

Tamekia Flowers-Ball

Tara Drewes

Taylor Smith

Taylor Snow

Teri Campbell

Traci DePuy

Viveca McDonald

Willette Ellis

Yanique Shaw

Yolanda Simmons Battle

Zena Phillips

Zoe Moore


Keep scrolling to get to know each member of our class of 2024 Women to Watch!



2024 Women to Watch

 


Ajoa Abrokwa

Professor/Educator, She Is Focused, Inc.

One word that describes her: Expansive

Her runway song: Jenny from the Block by Jennifer Lopez


The events and opportunities that Ajoa provides target urban women and girls or communities of women that are often left underserved and underrepresented. She shows that despite the environment that we come from or live in, we equally deserve safe spaces and opportunities to heal and grow.



Alisa de Gaspe Beaubien

CEO, Groupize

One word that describes her: Bright

Her runway song: Fighter by Christina Aguilera


Alisa is a mother, wife, and growth-minded CEO who has a genuine passion for what she does and truly cares about the people she has set out to help. To her, events is more than a business, its the way we maintain our humanity. She set out with big goals to disrupt the industry and compete with giants and continues to aim high with massive growth expected for her business in the coming years. She very kind, cares about her people, and knows how to get things done.



Allison Kearns

Principal, ARK Event Design

One word that describes her: Tenacious

Her runway song: Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves


Allison is a force to be reckoned with. She is a creative, driven woman who embraces challenges with open arms. She has always been her clients' number one advocate and pushes the boundaries to create exceptional experiences even when dealt complex circumstances. In addition to being a total boss, she's an amazing and thoughtful mom of two, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.



Amanda Black

Vendor Permit Coordinator, Vegandale, Step Above Stigma

One word that describes her: Meticulous

Her runway song: ME! by Taylor Swift


Amanda Black is not just a force to be reckoned with, but also a shining example of excellence in her field.


Recognizing her passion for sustainability and animal welfare, Amanda joined Vegandale as their Vendor Coordinator for their annual shows across the globe - including L.A., Miami, London, Toronto, and more - where thousands of attendees attend! This role not only allows her to utilize her professional event planning skills but also aligns perfectly with her personal values and beliefs. Amanda's dedication to veganism is a testament to her unwavering commitment to living a conscientious and compassionate life.



Amanda Struss

Founder & CEO, The Parallax Group

One word that describes her: Precision

Her runway song: Anything that is not Phish, haha


With nearly 20 years of experience traveling the world, caring for clients and designing events where no detail was overlooked, Amanda Struss founded Parallax Group in 2022. From 2022 to 2023, she doubled the company's revenue. To go out on your own in this industry takes bravery, grit, confidence, smarts, a village of partners who trust and believe in you... Amanda has all of that and more!



Amy Harris

Global Director Client Strategy and SMM Center of Excellence, CWT Meetings & Events

One word that describes her: Inspirational

Her runway song: Burn by Ellie Goulding


With over two decades of experience in the SMM domain, Amy has successfully implemented two comprehensive SMM programs, notably navigating the complexities arising from the merger of two Fortune 500 companies. Leveraging her wealth of direct client experience, Amy brings to her role a formidable combination of knowledge, experience, and a passionate commitment to propelling SMM forward.


Recognizing the importance of partnerships and relationships, Amy has translated her passion for knowledge-sharing into action by developing and teaching an internal SMM certification course for the sales teams. This initiative underscores her dedication to elevating SMM knowledge across the entire organization.



Amy Rixmann

Director, Global Sales and Marketing, CWT Meetings & Events

One word that describes her: Strategic

Her runway song: Good as Hell by Lizzo


Amy is at the forefront of supporting multinational organizations in aligning CWT as their go-to Meetings and Events (M&E) agency, particularly within their Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) programs. With her stellar experience and education, Amy brings a unique blend of strategic insight and innovative thinking to elevate the impact of CWT's SMM strategy.

But Amy's impact goes beyond just numbers and metrics. She's a trailblazer, carving pathways for future generations of women in leadership roles. Through her mentorship and advocacy, she's empowering women to shatter glass ceilings and realize their fullest potential.



Angela "Fig" Wirkler

Director of Sales, Visit Boulder

One word that describes her: Bold

Her runway song: Run The World (Girls) by Beyoncé


Fig is a badass in so many ways. She always leads with authenticity and confidence, and she is one of the most positive people I have ever met. She has never met a stranger, so even when you first meet her, you already feel like she is your best friend. She is also passionate about developing female leaders, and she has helped grow women both at work and through the many industry orgs she is a part of. I am lucky to call Fig a friend, but she is also someone I truly look up to. Her leadership style and enthusiasm is contagious.



Ashley Baptiste

CEO, Conferences Connect

One word that describes her: Unstoppable

Her runway song: Unstoppable by Sia


Ashley is a total champion for girl power in the workplace, especially in those spots where it feels like women have to shout just to be heard. For over 15 years, Ashley's been doing more than just putting on top-notch events; she's been building stages where women can stand tall, share their brilliance, and inspire each other.


Ashley's magic lies in her knack for creating spaces that not just welcome but celebrate female leaders, thinkers, and innovators. She's turned Conferences Connect into a go-to spot for anyone who's looking to see real change in action, showcasing women who are breaking barriers and paving new paths. Ashley is not just talking about girl power; she's making it happen, event by event.



Asiyah Ball

Founder / Executive Director, Covered Girl Chronicles

One word that describes her: Multidimensional

Her runway song: I Am Woman by Emmy Meli


My nominee Asiyah Ball is a dynamic, forward-thinking senior at the George Washington University. Asiyah is the founder of the brand Covered Girl Chronicles, a brand that amplifies African American Muslim Women across the world. Asiyah started with highlighting muslim women from her home town of Philadelphia. Asiyah is working to empower and change the narrative of Muslim Woman showing the many impactful contribution they make and have been making to enhance their own quality of life and the communities around them. Asiyah is a trailblazer and she has not event completed her undergraduate studies. We are super excited about all that she will accomplish in the future.



Betsy Walker

SVP, Growth Marketing, EnterpriseDB Corporation

One word that describes her: Visionary

Her runway song: Respect by Aretha Franklin


Betsy Walker, a visionary force in the realm of Growth Marketing, is poised to revolutionize the industry landscape.


What truly sets Betsy apart is her unwavering commitment to empowerment. She understands that true success is not measured solely by individual achievements but by the collective triumphs of her team. As a mentor and advocate, she cultivates a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, where diversity is celebrated, and innovation flourishes.



Brandy Thigpen

Vice President, Events Marketing, City National Bank

One word that describes her: Brilliant

Her runway song: Superwoman by Alicia Keys


In her previous role as Director, Client Services for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Brandy specialized in operations and logistics for conventions and mega sporting events like the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, 2017 NHL All-Star Game, 2022 Super Bowl, 2022 MLB All-Star Game and many more.


Brandy was also instrumental in Los Angeles winning bids to host the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. With a range of experience, Brandy prides herself on building strong relationships with partners and clients while creating lasting experiences for attendees.



Brenda Perrin

Business Development Manager, Fredericton Convention Centre

One word that describes her: BRENDA!

Her runway song: Happy by Pharrell Williams


Meet Brenda, a radiant SPOTLIGHT who effortlessly illuminates any room she enters. Her magnetic presence beams with positive energy, creating an atmosphere of warmth and inclusivity.


Brenda is not merely a bystander; she is a kind-hearted catalyst for change, always ready to lend her support. Her inclusive approach, marked by an open mind and a generous heart, defines her as a true people connector. Brenda goes beyond the ordinary, consistently striving to give back to her community in impactful ways.


In a world where true leadership is measured by the ability to uplift others, Brenda stands out as a shining example.



Cayce Turbeville

Regional Sales Director, Groups 360

One word that describes her: Determination

Her runway song: High Hopes by Panic! At The Disco


Cayce is a positive and inspiring leader. She exudes great energy in her work relationships, industry organizations and personal friendships. She’s a hard worker in all endeavors and is always willing to offer a helping hand.



Cheryl Oswald

Corporate Events Manager, CNH

One word that describes her: Selfless

Her runway song: The Best by Tina Turner


Whether assisting with the CEO or a part timer hired yesterday, Cheryl goes out of her way to make their needs her top priority. She is dedicated, committed, relentless, and exact. What truly sets her apart is the size of her heart and her compassion for everyone and everything. She is simply someone who makes you better just by knowing her.



Ciara Feely

Speaker, Author, Sales Trainer & Sales Enablement Strategist, Ciara Feely

One word that describes her: Fierce

Her runway song: Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield


Ciara is a long-standing staple in the meetings and events community as a sales strategist and volunteer. She helped elevate MPI Small Business Owner's Community through her tenure as Chair through the pandemic. Aside from her great work around sales, small business owner and women's empowerment, it is her bravery and courage to talk about aging women and menopause that truly cemented her status as an industry innovator. She's not afraid to facilitate the "tough conversations," and her work around how menopause affects women professionally should be both commended and highlighted.



Claudia Polycar

Bilingual Event Coordinator, Oxygen Events Ltd.

One word that describes her: Innovation 

Her runway song: Trustfall by P!nk


Since Claudia emerged onto the live events industry in 2023, she has been a ray of sunshine in every interaction. She is sociable and pleasant, with the end customer experience at the center of all interactions - yet she is also focused and driven to create an amazing event experience. Her past career in the military proves evident in both her organizational skills as well as her reliability to deliver real results. She is poised to blaze a trail for innovative and experiential events in 2024 and for many years to come.



Crystal Shaughnessy

Field Marketing Event Manager, EnterpriseDB Corporation

One word that describes her: Resilient

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Imagine a maestro orchestrating an unforgettable symphony of brand experiences, captivating audiences and leaving a lasting imprint on their hearts and minds. This is Crystal. With a career steeped in innovation and marked by a relentless pursuit of excellence, she stands as a beacon of inspiration and leadership.


Amidst her professional achievements, Crystal remains rooted in her commitment to collaboration and inclusivity. She understands that true success is not achieved alone but through the collective efforts of a diverse and empowered team. As a mentor and advocate, she cultivates a culture of creativity, empowerment, and mutual respect, inspiring those around her to reach new heights of achievement.



Deanna Griffith-House

Vice President, EventMasters

One word that describes her: Tenacious

Her runway song: Baby, You're a Firework by Katy Perry


Deanna leads with foresight, anticipating market shifts and adapting strategies for success.She challenges norms, introducing novel concepts and immersive experiences that redefine event planning. Through mentorship and advocacy, Deanna nurtures talent and promotes diversity within the industry. Her work extends beyond events, supporting charitable causes and environmental sustainability.



Elizabeth Giron

Director of Business Development, Global, Terramar, a DMC Network Company

One word that describes her: Tenacious

Her runway song: I'm Every Woman by Whitney Houston


Elizabeth is not only one of the most effective connectors in the industry, but she creates these connections in such an authentic and genuine way that she build friendships for life throughout meetings and events. While most people can claim 6 degrees of separation with Kevin Bacon, I'd be surprised if you had to count as high as 2 to find your connection to Elizabeth.



Erin Schrieber

Development Director, City Year

One word that describes her: ROCKSTAR

Her runway song: I’m a Survivor by Destiny’s Child


Erin has such a charismatic energy that is sure to win over any crowd, movement or team! She is a dedicated and humble worker that really inspires people to do more, make a difference and be a part of something great. Erin takes pleasure in seeing others shine which truly embodies the depth of her amazing character and leadership!



Gabrielle Groll

Event Coordinator, akire Productions

One word that describes her: Tenacious

Her runway song: Man I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain


Gabrielle has quickly flourished as a leading Event Coordinator at akire Productions. Not only does she excel at her role, she has a contagious positive personality that is always uplifting the spirits in even the most positive of rooms.





Genevieve Belou

Director of Sales and Marketing, Magnolia Hotel Denver, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel

One word that describes her: Resilient

Her runway song: Unstoppable by Sia


Genevieve's professional journey and rise  is a testament to her unwavering determination, innovative spirit, and unparalleled commitment to breaking barriers and just overall killing it. Awaiting her time to shine, she has risen the ranks and defied any odds put against her and is currently becoming a beacon in the organization for what it means to be a successful woman in the hospitality industry.


What truly sets Genevieve apart is her genuine passion for empowering others. She not only excels in her own endeavors but also goes above and beyond to uplift the team around her, serving as a mentor, ally, and champion for women everywhere in the hospitality industry. Her leadership is not just about achieving personal success, but also about creating a more inclusive and equitable future for all within the hospitality sector.



Huong Nguyen

CEO & Founder, Shiloh Events

One word that describes her: Empowered

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Huong consistently pushes the boundaries of creativity. Her events are not just gatherings; they are immersive experiences. From interactive installations to unconventional venues, she redefines what events can achieve.


Her ability to weave storytelling into every detail sets her apart. In an era of environmental consciousness, Huong champions sustainable practices. She integrates eco-friendly elements into her events, minimizing waste and promoting responsible consumption. Her dedication to leaving a positive impact on the planet is commendable.



Janielle Bertrand

Director of Creative Enablement, Transitioning companies 

One word that describes her: Dynamic

Her runway song: The Best of Times by Styx


It is not often that you come across someone with passion and talent all in a single person. Janielle listens, she hears, then puts her imagination and 30 years of creative skills to paper. There is not a better champion of her team members, as she leads by example, hard work, loyalty, and dedication.


Janielle is not only a loyal employee, but she is also a loyal friend, mom, wife. Janielle can be counted on to be there during the good times, and still there during the bad times. She has major mojo!



Jeniffer Bello

Executive Producer, Creative Brand Strategist, Experience Designer, JB Experiences

One word that describes her: Loyal

Her runway song: Fight Song by Rachel Platten


What truly sets Jen apart is her selflessness. In a world where self-interest often prevails, her altruistic approach is a breath of fresh air. She doesn't just make room at the table for other women; she builds a bigger table, ensuring there's a place for everyone. Her investment in the success of others isn't just about time or resources; it's a heart-and-soul endeavor. Jen believes in the power of collective triumph, championing the idea that when one woman succeeds, it's a victory for all.


Jen Bello embodies the essence of the Women to Watch awards: a tireless advocate for women, a mentor who nurtures potential, and a visionary who sees the strength in unity. Her nomination is not just deserved—it's a testament to the incredible impact one individual can have on the lives of many.



Jennifer Selley

General Manager, Imprint Events Group

One word that describes her: Fearless

Her runway song: Independent by Lil Boosie


Jen's presence and tenacity drives those around her to strive for better.


Her knowledge of hospitality carries weight not just because of her title or position, but because it is rooted in the profound understanding of what it means to be hospitable, profitable and caring for the successes of those around her.


What truly sets Jen apart is not just her professionalism, but her commitment to being authentically herself and people are immediately drawn to her. 



Jihan Lang

Director, Institutional Advancement & Campaign Events, Spelman College

One word that describes her: Dynamic

Her runway song: Roar by Katy Perry


Amidst the trials presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jihan not only managed but excelled in overseeing two departments with finesse and precision. Her meticulous attention to detail and penchant for creativity illuminated every event she orchestrated, ensuring each gathering was not only successful but left a lasting impression.


Jihan Lang's ability to navigate challenges with grace, creativity, and unparalleled dedication truly distinguishes her as a Woman to Watch.



Kate Calderon

Vice President, National Director of Creative, Hello! Destination Management

One word that describes her: Storyteller

Her runway song: This Girl is On Fire by Alicia Keys


Kate's capacity to work harmoniously with other creative minds in the Hello! Creative Department and with the clients has been instrumental in driving the success of her team and the projects they undertake. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and shared vision, she cultivates a culture where ideas flourish and collective brilliance shines. With her innate ability to inspire and unite, Kate Calderon embodies the transformative power of collaboration, leaving an indelible imprint for all stakeholders.



Kate Walsh

Vice President, Team Member Experience, Hello! Destination Management

One word that describes her: Innovative

Her runway song: Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin


Kate is a remarkable human being. In the book Unreasonable Hospitality, Will Guidara quotes his dad saying, “Run toward what you want, as opposed to away from what you don’t want.” Kate has lived into that throughout her career. I have seen her excel in every role she has taken on; from Travel Director, to Sales Executive, to Vice President of Ops, to Vice President of Team Member Experience.


She is a natural leader that brings a fresh perspective on solving the most difficult problems in a truly human fashion. Coming out of the pandemic, the travel industry lost a huge amount of talent which left a void of knowledge and culture that every company has struggled to replace. Kate is putting in place the tools for us to be the undisputed employer of choice which will make us the undisputed leader in the industry. While that is an audacious goal, and will take time to come to fruition, the work she did in 2023 will be noticed in the industry in the coming years.



Katie Mahr

Director of Field Marketing, EnterpriseDB Corporation

One word that describes her: Dynamic

Her runway song: Roar by Katy Perry


A dynamic force of nature, Katie strides into any room with an aura of confidence and purpose. With a career adorned with accolades and achievements, she has consistently shattered glass ceilings and redefined industry standards.


Yet, it's not just her professional prowess that captivates—it's her ability to inspire. Katie is a mentor, a champion of diversity, and a beacon of empowerment. She cultivates a culture of inclusivity, where every voice is heard, and every idea is valued—a testament to her belief in the collective power of her team.


In a world hungry for change-makers, Katie stands tall—a visionary leader, a fearless innovator, and, unequivocally, a Woman to Watch. With her at the helm, the possibilities are limitless, and the future, undoubtedly, is bright.



Keliane Nakamura

Senior Private Event Executive, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment

One word that describes her: Industrious

Her runway song: Woman Like Me by Little Mix


From my first day until now, Keliane has been inviting, positive and willing to help everyone around her. She shares her institutional knowledge of our properties to help me in my new position which really gave me a step up to advance quickly. Keliane is a hardworking woman that strives to help other women. 


As my go-to person to bounce ideas off of, she has an excellent handle on event planning at all stages and is not afraid to pitch in and push things through to make an event a success. Exhibiting poise with colleagues and clients, she is someone that you immediately know you want to work with. 



Kellye Gardner

Director of Marketing & Strategy, Redstory 

One word that describes her: Meticulous

Her runway song: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen


Kellye's contribution to crafting and implementing our proprietary design process has been invaluable. She has been instrumental in guiding Redstory to leverage a combination of data analysis, behavioral science, and spatial design for a comprehensive understanding of key event stakeholders.


Kellye's deep knowledge and guidance have been the leading force behind our ability to create a truly unique opportunity for event stakeholders to feel seen and understood. This has allowed us to create experiences that have a lasting impact on people, communities, and brands.




Kristian Miller

Operations & Detailed Services Professional

One word that describes her: PHOENIX!!!

Her runway song: BREAK MY SOUL by Beyoncé


Kristian Miller embodies the true essence of a trailblazer in the events, travel/tourism, and hospitality industry. Her courage shines brightly in a world where women are often encouraged to play small. Kristian fearlessly advocates for service excellence, going above and beyond to ensure her clients' needs are not just met but exceeded. Her dedication leaves an indelible mark on every project she undertakes, showcasing a level of commitment that is truly exceptional.


Integrity is at the core of Kristian's being, guiding her every action and decision. Her unwavering commitment to ethical practices sets a shining example for all, especially young women aspiring to make their mark in the industry (or ANY industry, for that matter).



Lauren Smith

CEO, Modern Collective Travel

One word that describes her: INSPIRING


Lauren is motivating, inspiring and tenacious all in one moment. She is an absolute breath of fresh air with her energy and approach to life. She is consistently considerate of others and always wanting everyone around her to succeed.


She goes SO ABOVE AND BEYOND for her clients and travel agents, it is literally unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Not only does she put her all into finding the right space and vendor for her clients but she strives to give her agents what they need before they need it.



Layne

CEO, The Auctionista / Layne Talent Inc.

One word that describes them: Changemaker

Their runway song: I'm Every Woman by Whitney Houston 


Layne is using their platform to motivate communities to be more inclusive, accepting and welcoming to everyone, everywhere. They promote the idea of authenticity and use their voice to speak to the incredible work that organizations are doing to support inclusive initiatives, and they also help organizations become aware of the importance of DEIB.


Layne is an absolute beacon of inspiration, as they have completely smashed gender stereotypes when it comes to auctioneering and have in fact, redefined the role altogether. 



Loretta Allen

Director of Global Accounts, Omni Hotels Worldwide 

One word that describes her: Graceful

Her runway song: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson


Amidst the insanity of the hospitality world, Loretta manages a big book of diverse meeting planner clients with grace, compassion, creativity and loyalty. She always shows up - and not just to the happy hours - she’s there when shit hits the fan.


She represents her brand with style and grace and somehow manages to balance the fine line of always taking care of the customer. She takes the time - she listens - she is creative.


I can’t tell you the number of times she’s “showed up” on my podcast, in my sales sessions, in my DMs on IG when it seems like it was a tough week. She gets shit done.



Mai Lim

Director of Intermediary Sales, Visit Las Vegas

One word that describes her: Captivating

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Mai Lim, a prominent figure in the hospitality industry, boasts a distinguished career spanning over two decades. Beginning in her family's travel agency in the Philippines and Thailand, Mai developed a passion for service early on. Immigrating to the United States in 1999, she initially focused on caring for the elderly in her family's care home business in Sonoma County, California. Mai's career ascended as she assumed key sales management roles at prestigious resorts in Las Vegas and San Diego.


Beyond her professional achievements, Mai is dedicated to giving back through mentoring and speaking engagements. A loving mother to a 30-year old, she balances her active career with a vibrant lifestyle, indulging in Peloton rides, outdoor walks, beach getaways, and culinary explorations. Mai Lim exemplifies success in the hospitality industry, enriching lives through her diverse interests, unwavering faith, and commitment to excellence.



Mandy Robbins

Sr Mgr, Strategic Events, EnterpriseDB Corporation

One word that describes her: Fierce

Her runway song: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé


Imagine a master orchestrator, seamlessly weaving together the threads of creativity, strategy, and execution to craft unforgettable experiences. This is Mandy. With a career punctuated by innovation and a relentless pursuit of excellence, she stands as a beacon of inspiration and leadership.


What truly sets Mandy apart is her unwavering commitment to pushing the envelope. In a world where mediocrity is commonplace, she dares to dream bigger, think bolder, and execute flawlessly. Yet, amidst her professional accomplishments, Mandy remains grounded in her dedication to collaboration and inclusivity. She understands that true success is not achieved in isolation but through the collective efforts of a diverse and empowered team. As a mentor and advocate, she fosters a culture of creativity, empowerment, and mutual respect, inspiring those around her to reach new heights of achievement.



Marisa Cali

Virtual Event Producer, Be Present LLC

One word that describes her: Resilient

Her runway song: Flames by David Guetta


Marisa has an exceptional ability to create engaging and dynamic live streams that capture the audience's attention. Her technical expertise and knowledge of the latest streaming technologies are unmatched, and she always ensures that every aspect of the production runs smoothly.


What impresses me most about Marisa is her unwavering dedication to delivering high-quality results for her clients. She is passionate about what she does, and it shows in the exceptional work she produces.



Melissa Deslauriers

Director of Client Engagement, CCR Solutions

One word that describes her: MENTOR

Her runway song: Roar by Katy Perry


Melissa commands my utmost respect as a female leader in the AV industry. Fearlessly voicing her opinions and leading with unwavering integrity, she stands as a beacon for authenticity in a field that demands bold voices. Melissa is not just breaking barriers; she's dismantling them, paving the path for a more inclusive and diverse industry.


As a founding member of the AXIVA Women's Council in Canada, Melissa is actively involved in creating opportunities for female professionals in AV. In an industry traditionally dominated by men, she champions a culture that ensures every woman feels supported, safe, and connected. Melissa is not just talking about change; she's driving it, shaping a future where women thrive in the AV landscape.



Melissa Riley

Senior VP, Convention Sales and Services, Destination DC

One word that describes her: Powerhouse

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Picture this: A bustling conference room in the heart of Washington, D.C. As discussions swirl and decisions hang in the balance, one woman stands out amidst the chaos - Melissa Riley. With a single word, she embodies power: a powerhouse in the world of destination management, a force to be reckoned with in every sense of the phrase.


Melissa Riley, the epitome of action-driven leadership. She doesn't just talk the talk; she walks it with purpose and determination. Poised and elegant, yet unyielding in her pursuit of excellence, Melissa is the driving force behind Destination DC's unprecedented success.


But what truly sets Melissa apart is her unwavering kindness and infectious sense of humor. In a world where leadership can often be synonymous with cold efficiency, Melissa breaks the mold with warmth and compassion. She leads not with an iron fist, but with a servant's heart, always putting the needs of her team and community above her own.



Melva LaJoy Legrand

CEO + Founder, LaJoy Plans

One word that describes her: Dynamic

Her runway song: I'm Every Woman by Whitney Houston


Melva is not only a hardworking woman and founder of her event planning firm, LaJoy Plans, but a champion for minority owned businesses and mission focused organizations as well. As a Black woman herself, Melva is well aware of the issues women of color often face in the workplace which has led to her prioritization to uplift and celebrate others in her industry, especially women and those in communities of color.


She has spearheaded numerous initiatives to promote equity within the events industry, including one of her most celebrated, Head Table Talks (HTT). HTT is a quarterly luncheon she co-created with industry peer Margo Fischer, that serves as a continuation of their Beyond the Blackout series, aimed at increasing access to Black and BIPOC vendors in DC during the pandemic. HTT hosts a small group of event planners and vendors in the DMV area and invites them to sit next to someone new, chat and have a laugh with one another.


Melva takes great pride in working with mission-focused organizations across initiatives supporting causes in the energy and climate crisis, LGBTQ+ leadership, prison reform, education equity and more.



Michelle Johnson

Business Owner, Event Producer, and Boss Lady, The Anchor Group & The Trio Project

One word that describes her: Powerful

Her runway song: Lil Boo Thang by Paul Russell


Michelle is a truly remarkable and amazing person. She runs two thriving event management companies, is an industry speaker and facilitator, and a friend and mentor to so many, including myself. She's the type of person that when she walks into a room her amazing energy and positive personality lights up the room.


She never hesitates to jump in and help anyone who needs it and has been an inspiration to so many, especially to those that want to learn how she created her businesses from the bottom up and takes time to mentor so many in the industry.


She was part of the team that created the facilitator program for MPI which is responsible for training so many industry chapter leaders around the world. But most of all she is a kind, sincere, funny, and passionate person who has been a women to watch for many years.



Michelle Marinelli

Executive Director of Food and Beverage, Red Run Golf Club

One word that describes her: Mover

Her runway song: Lose Yourself by Eminem


Michelle's journey in the world of hospitality began at The Palace of Auburn Hills, where she had the privilege of working with the Pistons team. Later, she transitioned to Pine Knob, where she orchestrated and managed numerous concerts and events.


Her impressive track record and dedication to delivering exceptional member experiences makes her a perfect fit for our club. We are fortunate to have her on board, and we can't wait for her to share her talents and creativity with our Red Run family.



Michelle Moon

Vice President of Partners, Experience and Special Events, Visit San Antonio 

One word that describes her: Indefatigable

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Michelle gives 150% in her business and personal life. Always the first to say yes and get the job done, she is also at every one of her girls’ events cheering them on. Her level of detail in every aspect of her life is incredible and she is a phenomenal role model for anyone in the hospitality arena.


Michelle shows up and is present. She is not just going through the motions that we often see people do at work and in our lives. She is involved, in charge and indefatigable.



Monique Hill

Travel Agent and Event Planner, Luxury Travel Advisor 

One word that describes her: Ingenious

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Monique is the light that women gravitate to! Her ability to capture the audience is uncanny! She has been hosting highly anticipated events for women in South Carolina for years. She recently began offering luxury travel experiences that highlight self care and mental awareness.


Monique is a gem at ensuring an event is sold out because of her passion, purpose, and mission. She hails from the medical field and uses her experience to ensure women are embracing femininity and selfcare. She is highly educated and retired (young) from the Medical University of South Carolina as an educator. She is invested in the community and is active in giving back, advocating, and equality for all.



Natasha Manji

Director of Business Development, Quest Audio Visual

One word that describes her: Connector

Her runway song: Brave by Sara Bareilles


What captivates me most about Natasha is her unwavering authenticity, a rare quality in a world often defined by facades. Natasha doesn't just lead; she does so with human emotions laid bare. Her ability to stay true to herself, understanding her priorities, and effortlessly balancing the demanding roles of a professional and a present mother is a beacon for women in our industry. Natasha's journey is a testament to the power of authenticity and the impact it can have on those around her.


In her role as Director of Business Development, Natasha has excelled in nurturing relationships, taking the lead in venue strategic partnerships as the driving force at Quest Audio Visual. Her contributions have been instrumental in recent announcements, showcasing her exceptional skills in building alliances rooted in trust. Building strategic partnerships, as we all know, requires time, patience, and a steadfast commitment to consistently showcase excellence. Natasha embodies these qualities effortlessly, establishing herself as a trusted AV partner in the industry.



Nikki Bibbero

CEO/ Founder, Bibbero Meetings and Events

One word that describes her: Trailblazer

Her runway song: Roar by Katy Perry


Nikki Bibbero is an extraordinary leader in the hospitality and events industry, demonstrating unparalleled dedication and visionary leadership across various industry associations.


Her integrity, humility, and unwavering support for peers make her a cherished mentor and role model, setting a standard of excellence that elevates the entire profession. Nikki's entrepreneurial spirit, resilience, and boundless positivity have not only led her to found her own successful company but have also inspired countless colleagues and industry professionals.



Noonie Aguilar

Director of Sales, DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau 

One word that describes her: Meticulous

Her runway song: Yeah by Usher 


Noonie is extremely imaginative, which leads us in coming up with new ideas to overcome everyday business challenges.


Her ability to always be the calm in a storm is uncanny. She is membership-focused and always knowledgeable regarding the current events of tourism.



Paulina Giusti

Director of Meetings & Event Design, Cvent

One word that describes her: Badass, Visionary, Innovative

Her runway song: Don't Stop Me Now by Queen


Paulina is the head of Cvent's North America event design team and is a consistent marketing leader, mentor, sounding board, project manager and event strategist. In the last year, she won, Marketer of the Year, was promoted to Director and won Cventer of the Year due to her tremendous contributions to the industry and the company.


She has elevated the roles of event professionals through leadership, project management, leveraging experiential design, elevating the business side of events through data and continuously sharing her experiences outside of the organization.


She has gone from just a planning executor to true strategic visionary & events executive. In addition to the hundreds of events her team oversees in NAM, she has led the event design charge on crafting Cvent CONNECT (both US and European conference) into a leading industry event with 60% growth in just the last year. Paulina embodies visionary, empathetic and inclusive leadership and and is a MUST watch in the events industry for being a true badass.



Precious LaTonia Williams

CEO, # KillerPitchMaster, Perfect Pitch Group

One word that describes her: BOLD

Her runway song: Moment 4 Life by Nicki Minaj


Pitching ain’t easy but it sure is fun! As the KillerPitchMaster, Precious trains her clients and customers how to turn their perceived flaws into their secret weapon through pitching. They also learn how to harness the power of their authentic self, all of it, the blemishes and scars, as rocket fuel for their pitching goals. 


Precious L. Williams is the proud Founder and CEO of Perfect Pitches by Precious. She is an African American woman who possesses 29 years of expertise as an international professional speaker, communications skills expert, 13x National Elevator Pitch Champion, former attorney, Top Fortune 100 corporate sales trainer, and author of 5 number one bestselling business books on pitching.



Quinn Conyers

Keynote Speaker & Event Emcee, Speak to Society LLC

One word that describes her: Energetic

Her runway song: All I Do is Win by DJ Khaled 


Quinn Conyers has become a unicorn in the professional speaking space. Not  only can she captivate a crowd as a keynote speaker, she can energize and engage a crowd as an emcee. Most can not do both brilliantly.


Quinn is leaving a legacy with her language and she is doing it authentically. She proudly speaks in sneakers after having a painful experience in heels and has a unique perspective on how business owners, founders and sales professionals can increase their bottom line by sharpening his/her/their speaking skills.



Raya Roll

Director of Sales and Business Development, Director of Sales and Business Development

One word that describes her: Innovative

Her runway song: Roar by Katy Perry


Raya Roll is a true example of innovation, leadership, and success in the competitive landscape of sales and marketing within the hospitality industry.


Her leadership philosophy extends well beyond achieving sales targets; it is about fostering a culture of empowerment, continuous learning, and integrity. Raya's mentorship has been instrumental in nurturing a team environment where every interaction is seized as a learning opportunity, promoting a culture where continuous improvement and mutual respect are paramount.


Raya's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is what truly sets her apart as a transformative leader. By advocating for equal opportunities and empowering women in the workplace, she has not only improved the cohesion and performance of her teams.



Richelle Suver

Lead Sales, Sales Enablement & Marketing, One10

One word that describes her: Poised

Her runway song: Gloria by Laura Branigan


The first time I saw Richelle speak on a panel at IRF, I was immediately struck by how elegant, well spoken and intelligent she is. I later came to find that she is also incredibly kind and generous. If anyone is a Woman to Watch, it's Richelle.





Sarah Soliman

CEO, Soliman Productions

One word that describes her: Phenomenal

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


I have watched Sarah bloom from a "new kid on the block" to a fantastic CEO of a company that continues to grow in size and services.


Her moderator, facilitator, speaker and other skills are surpassed only by her leadership ability to elevate her team members who follow her lead in making Soliman Productions the company it is today and tomorrow, even fulfilling her dream of operating in multiple locations run exclusively by Soliman Productions team members.



Shelley Brown

Award Winning Speaker, Chief Belongingologist, Champion of Cultural Cohesion, Shelley Brown

One word that describes her: Effervescent

Her runway song: Born This Way by Lady Gaga


Shelley Brown has a beautiful spirit and is one of the coolest people I know. She wrote a book called, "Weird Girl Adventures," and has since turned her message of embracing and celebrating all of our weird and unique qualities into a thriving keynote speaking business.


She started painting only a few years ago and uses her artwork as a heartfelt way to illustrate her talks. She exemplifies generosity, demonstrates the power of a positive mindset, and shows us what it looks like to live life to the fullest - unapologetically.



Simone Stone

VP, Operations & Customer Success, Plannernet

One word that describes her: Prescient

Her runway song: Do What I Do by Lady Bri


Simone Stone's prescient approach to operations and customer success positions her as a woman to watch in the industry. Her uncanny ability to anticipate customer needs and operational challenges before they manifest ensures that her strategies are not just reactive, but proactive and forward-thinking.


This foresight enables her to lead her team and the company towards innovative solutions and sustained success, making her an invaluable asset to Plannernet and it's ability to provide a tailored freelance workforce solutions to customers and quality freelance opportunities to event professionals.



Steph Callie

Event Manager, Beacon Event & Incentive Management

One word that describes her: Strategic

Her runway song: I Am Woman by Helen Reddy


Steph has been in this industry for years now and continues to be strategic, reliable, a go-getter, finding ways to continually reinvent herself and grow. She’s working on growing in her career and has a growth mindset to always be improving.


She was recently honored to join the board of directors for SITE Mountain West and she is so excited to work with the women on the board, making an impact in our local industry.



Susan Piel

Meeting and Event Consultant, Spiel Planning

One word that describes her: Collaborative

Her runway song: Happy by Pharrell Williams


Susan is the current chair of MPI's Small Business Owners community. She has been a pivotal part of this community for many years and is a champion for all meeting professionals and partners that run their own small business.


She is committed to getting resources into the hands of these entrepreneurs and creating a safe community for them to learn from one another and network with one another.



Sydney Rhea

Senior Event Operations Manager, Informa

One word that describes her: Vivacious

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


You know when you meet someone and they just have that something extra? That is Sydney Rhea. I first met Sydney at the International Association of Exhibits and Events leadership training that I was presenting in 2022 during COVID.


Even in that challenging time for the industry, she was solution-focused and action-driven. Since first meeting Sydney, I have secretly watched on the sidelines and under her leadership the small but mighty IAEE Rocky Mountain Chapter has grown and won the Chapter of Merit award. Sydney is smart, engaging and a woman to watch.



Tamekia Flowers-Ball

Founder & CEO, Epiphany Blue 

One word that describes her: Dynamic

Her runway song: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé


What sets Tamekia apart isn't just her entrepreneurial acumen; it's her relentless pursuit of excellence and her unwavering dedication to making a positive impact. With each event she curates, she doesn't just meet expectations; she exceeds them, weaving together creativity, precision, and a touch of magic to create moments that resonate long after the lights dim and the curtains fall.


Tamekia Flowers-Ball isn't just a Woman to Watch; she's a visionary trailblazer, a driving force of inspiration, and a beacon of excellence in an ever-evolving industry. Her story isn't just remarkable; it's a testament to the transformative power of passion, purpose, and the relentless pursuit of greatness.



Tara Drewes

Founder/CEO, I-MET Management

One word that describes her: Tenacious

Her runway song: I'm Every Woman by Chaka Khan


Last year, I was unsure if I should nominate myself or if I was "ready." I'm confident this year because this is the year I WILL make it happen! I have a passion for what I do in both the Travel and Events Industries. I do what I do, and I do it well.


I have take pride in serving on the MPI Greater Orlando Board of Directors with women who inspire me to be a better me every day. I took my CMP exam 2 times before I passed on the 3rd try. I didn't give up and am not shy about sharing that. I didn't fail the first two times; I simply didn't pass. The third time around, I asked for help because I knew what I was doing wasn't working. I needed to find another avenue, and I did. I think that sums me up as a person; if I can't find a way, I find a way, or I make one. I'm not perfect nor do I intend to be. I try to be a better person every day. I love giving back because I'm so appreciative of what I've learned. 


I can't wait to see what the next challenge I set for myself will be. I'm proud of my company that I created. I'm proud to be a wife and a mom.



Taylor Smith

Content Developer, Destinations & Features, Meetings Today

One word that describes her: Driven

Her runway song: 22 by Taylor Swift


Taylor is one of the hardest-working people that I know in the meetings industry. She has accomplished an extraordinary amount in just the 2 years she's been in the in industry. As the leading expert on gen-z issues in the meetings space, Taylor has successfully taken her column "The Z" and run with it, amassing hundreds of monthly readers and speaking at multiple conferences, trade shows and industry events based on her experiences.


I don't know anyone who has made more connections in this space than Taylor. Taylor is also one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I have met. She is always ready to help others and brings energy and passion to every project she works on. If her first two years in the industry are any indication, I definitely think she is a woman to watch, because it seems like she's just getting started with no plans to stop any time soon.



Taylor Snow

Director of Client Engagement, Connect

One word that describes her: Magnetic

Her runway song: Let it Snow


At a young age, Taylor is actively involved in many industry organizations on top of the work she does at Connect. Her positive attitude and drive draw people to her (hence the magnetic label), so much so that teams at Connect vie to have Taylor assist them.


As an example of her powerful presence, when she returned to focus on our sports team, the executive advisory board all took time out from a meeting to recognize her return. That just doesn't happen for anybody. She has such a bright future and we are just seeing the beginning of a stellar career.



Teri Campbell

Manager, Recognition & Celebration, Women's Executive Network

One word that describes her: Powerhouse

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Teri Campbell is undeniably a shining example of unwavering dedication and making a positive impact in the events industry. In my experience, she stands out as the most hard-working individual I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. 


Teri's impact on the mental health space in Canada has been nothing short of amazing. In the fall of 2023, she joined Step Above Stigma's Board of Directors as the Chair of Fund Development. Teri's passion for advocating for mental health and her unwavering commitment to promoting social good make her a valued member of the organization's leadership team.



Traci DePuy

Chief Marketing Officer, PCMA

One word that describes her: Strategic

Her runway song: Joy by Bastille 


Traci is the ultimate mover and shaker - she has just started as PCMA's new CMO and is already changing the game. Traci is a well-established business & event marketing leader with a long-proven track record for being innovative, creative and highly strategic with events and experiential marketing.


She is passionate about events and all things event travel but more importantly driving pipeline and elevating the roles of event professionals. And she is just a damn good human! Definitely a leader worth watching - I know she will be doing great things moving PCMA's industry programs and memberships forward!



Viveca McDonald

Corporate Sales Manager, West Region, Visit Denver

One word that describes her: Fearless

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


In the world of visionary leaders, there are few who shine as brightly as Viveca McDonald. Her journey to success has been one of determination, resilience, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Always rising above adversity and showing her passion with devotion to her career, colleagues and clients has made a meaningful impact. 


Viveca is a visionary leader, a trailblazer, and a philanthropist with a heart of gold. May her story ignite the spark of inspiration in us all, reminding us that with passion, perseverance, and purpose, we too can create a brighter world for generations to come.



Willette Ellis

Event Planner, Altria

One word that describes her: FIERCE

Her runway song: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé


Willette is a true powerhouse. She is a strong woman that elevates other women and works hard to bring diversity and diverse practices to our organization. She is a BEYOND reliable team member and goes above and beyond at all she does. She is giving, supportive, kind and unique.




Yanique Shaw

Founder/CEO, Yanique Events 

One word that describes her: Fearless

Her runway song: Diva by Beyoncé 


Yanique is the Beyoncé of events! Yep I said it. The woman can do anything! She is the CEO and founder of Yanique events managing numerous events a year. On top of that she is opening a brick and mortar in historic Mattapan, MA.


Not only is she an incredible florist and business woman, she’s an even better friend and human. She’s always supporting other small businesses in the area, while advocating and participating in the Boston event community by supporting MPI and ILEA in the region.



Yolanda Simmons Battle

Associate Director, American Psychological Association

One word that describes her: Dauntless

Her runway song: Unstoppable by Sia


I got to know Yolanda through our volunteer work for the PCMA Greater Midwest Chapter's DEI Task Force, where she implored us all to always "Be Bold and Be Brave."


Her leadership on the Task Force played a major role in upgrading the Task Force to a full DEI Committee, and is now one of the most active committees within the GMC. However, Yolanda didn't stop there. In 2024, Yolanda became the first African American President of the PCMA GMC.


Yolanda's relentless commitment to diversity, quality and progress, as well as her desire and drive to continuously learn and improve makes her an unstoppable force in the events industry.



Zena Phillips

Senior Director, Meetings & Events, Americas, Hilton

One word that describes her: Remarkable

Her runway song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys


Not only is Zena one of the strongest leaders within Hilton, but she manages to make time for peer-to-peer mentoring, raising her two girls and attending every dance recital, and date nights with her husband of over a decade. She just finished her MBA and takes both French and tennis lessons. She's a smart woman who walks her talk and raises up other women at every turn. I want to be Zena when I grow up.



Zoe Moore

Strategic DEI Consultant, Grow with Zomo

One word that describes her: Force

Her runway song: A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke


Zoe has a passion for intentional inclusivity through belonging and equity. She has a lens in life from her experiences in the military, the event space, volunteer experiences and her overall journey which allows space for openness and listening.


She is the type of person you want to be by to learn from, to grow from, and to call a friend. She wants you to be the best individual you can be and does this through empathy, love and passion by opening doors open to walk through together.


 

Shine a light on this year's Women to Watch by sharing on your social media channels - don't forget to tag me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so I can show your post some love! Cheers to a collective of phenomenal women.


Contact me to lead, inspire, or facilitate a game-changing conversation during your next conference or event.



Each nominator/nominee granted permission to Courtney Stanley Consulting, LLC the right to use provided logos, graphics, photographs, videos, audio recordings, documents, testimonials, video interview content, written quotes, the nominator’s and nominator's nominee personal likeness, and other materials (the “Materials”) provided by you for use by Courtney Stanley Consulting, LLC as described in this release (the “Release”). The Materials shall include the following specific list of materials, together with any additional materials you provide to us in the future at a later date under this Release: 2024 Women to Watch Awards blog posted on Courtney Stanley Consulting, LLC's website and social media platforms.


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